19 May 2014, 14:27

Balkans brace for more misery amid worst floods in over a century

Balkans brace for more misery amid worst floods in over a century

The Balkans braced for swollen rivers to reach new peaks on Monday, piling up misery after the worst floods in a century killed 45 people and sent tens of thousands fleeing for their lives. Muddy waters from the Sava River have submerged houses, churches, mosques and roads in Bosnia and Serbia after record rainfall wreaked havoc across the central European region.

Some 50,000 people have been evacuated in Bosnia and Serbia, with an additional 15,000 in Croatia, AFP reports. With some towns completely cut off by the torrents, fear rose that the death toll could rise significantly once rescue teams were able to move in.

"What happened to us happens once in a thousand years," Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday.

Rescuers told of wrenching scenes as they finally reached cut-off villages, with dozens of people huddling at the highest houses with no water or food.

Besides the flooding, the worst rainfall since records began in the late 19th century, also caused landslides that brought more destruction, prompted landmine warnings and closed numerous border crossings.

The dikes built by thousands of volunteers along the Sava River and around the Nikola Tesla power plant managed to hold overnight, Serbian state-run RTS television reported.

The plant, which produces some 50 percent of Serbian electricity, was surrounded by water.

Humanitarian aid, technical equipment and teams from Russia, the European Union, the United States and neighboring Montenegro and Macedonia were pouring in, authorities said.

Russia sends Ka-32 helicopters to help relief efforts in flood-hit Serbia

Two Russian Ka-32 multipurpose helicopters are to arrive in Serbia on Monday to assist in flood relief efforts, the RIA Novosti news agency reports, quoting a source in the Emergency Situations Ministry. The helicopters took off from Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow and after refueling in Brest headed for Bratislava. Their final destination is Nis, Serbia. The flight will total more than 2,300 km, the source said.

Upon arrival, the Ka-32 helicopters will be searching for and rescuing survivors in flood-stricken areas and delivering relief supplies to hard-to-access places.

Vast parts of Serbia were flooded last week after heavy rains caused rivers to swell. It has stopped raining by now, but the overflowing rivers still pose a danger. There is a high risk of landslides.

A state of emergency was declared in pats of neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Doboi, Samac, Maglai, Bijeljina, Banja Luka and many other cities and towns are completely or partially inundated. Thousands of residents were evacuated to safer areas.

Serbia declared a national emergency. On Thursday, the Serb government requested humanitarian and technical aid from Russia and the European Commission.

On Friday, Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry sent humanitarian aid to Serbia. As many as 72 Russian rescuers of the Tsentrospas and Leader emergency units, ten floating crafts and other rescue equipment from Russia were deployed near the town of Obrenovac not far from Belgrade.

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Emir Kusturica provides his helicopters to evacuate Serbs from flood-hit areas 

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